Painting the whole Picture: Handel at His Best

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

In this show, Kent explores the physical and painterly beauty of the choral sound world. And there's no greater master of painting a picture with music than George Frideric Handel. Yup, you know Messiah; you've probably overdosed on it at this point. But Israel in Egypt, while not as famous as Messiah, has perhaps the most powerful examples of word painting in all of Handel's works. Listen to the buzzing of the violins as they onomatopoetically describe the flies, lice, and the rest of the famous Egyptian plagues...

Later, the full dark choral texture creates a visceral depiction of the darkness that enveloped Egypt, and finally the orchestra undulates with the sound of the waves of the Red Sea.

Also on the program, Kent describes how he got locked inside Westminster Abbey with Handel's grave just under him. Spooky!

Finally, an exploration of the text of the Sanctus: you'll hear very different settings of this deeply spiritual text, from Machaut to Duruflé and of course, J.S. Bach.

On an Upcoming Choral Mix: When Gramophone magazine recently ranked the world's 20 best choirs, and it found America lacking. Indeed, not a single U.S. group made the list. In advance of our Jan. 30 show, we invite you to listen to a pair of side-by-side musical comparisons .

Comments [10]

Joel Rinsema from Phoenix, AZ

Thanks for including our performance of Calamitatis. Your program is wonderful, and I can't wait to catch up on all of the episodes! We'll spread the good word! Joel M. Rinsema, Executive Director, Phoenix Chorale (formerly known as Phoenix Bach Choir)

Jan. 26 2011 02:08 PM
Michael Elliot Bacon from Jersey City

I have enjoyed your program from the beginning. I note of late that you are flavoring your comments more with information and commentary. Good. Classical radio stations nationwide in the 1980's adopted the annoying habit of announcing only a piece's attributions and the station call letters. QXR mostly still does this. It is time to return to the earlier tradition of giving listeners somethings to think about. Thanks for that.

Jan. 21 2011 05:22 PM
Liz from New York

Fascinating programs. I have learned so much.
Kent's enthusiasm in sharing his love is quickly contagious. Thank you, WQXR for providing this program.

Jan. 20 2011 10:56 AM
Gary Ekman from New York City

The highlight of this program was Mr. Tritle's report that he was locked in Westminster Abbey for 3 hours playing an organ recital while the dead body of Handel lay below. Zounds!

Jan. 19 2011 06:36 AM
Michael Meltzer

This program was Kent's usual beautiful and quite eclectic spread, but from the advertising, you would not have known to expect that.
There may not have been as many listeners as there should have been.

Jan. 18 2011 07:32 PM
Liege Motta from Manhattan

We Dessies won't leave you alone, Kent... The Mantejarvi piece is exquisite and totally haunting! I hope I'll have the chance to perform it one day, as I have Israel in Egypt under your baton. Thank you for bringing these treasures to radio. Lastly, I must say that I understand and agree to a certain extent with Michael Meltzer regarding the issue of secular & sacred music. A tricky challenge for you, hopefully worthy of further exploration...

Jan. 16 2011 11:42 PM
Steven Lanser from Upper Manhattan

It was wonderful to hear this music, Kent! I own the John Elliot Gardner recording of "Israel In Egypt" and, of course, I have sung the piece a couple of times (notably under your direction with The Dessoff Choirs in February, 2000). The Bruckner "Os Justi" is exquisite (I sang that piece with you as well). I've actually also sung the Mantejarvi piece and own the recording you played. Bravissimo all around!

Jan. 16 2011 10:30 PM

Thank you for an eagle-eyed clarification. It has been fixed.

Jan. 16 2011 09:47 AM
Michael Meltzer

Having had the experience of building a choral sheet music inventory from scratch, I can testify that in short choral pieces, the ratio of quality sacred publications to quality secular publications is about 5 or 6 to 1. I don't doubt that in recordings, the ratio is even more stilted to the sacred side.
Nevertheless, as beautiful and as moving as your programming is, it does not fully support the spirit of a public radio station unless some representation of secular singing is offered.
This is not a complaint, Kent, just an observation. You know what I think of your work!

Jan. 16 2011 07:58 AM
Michael Meltzer

Whoever wrote the above copy, It never was "Frederick," or "Friderick." When Handel anglicized his name, he legally changed "Friedrich" to "Frideric," because it sounded like his name and sounded English to him.
It seems to bother everybody, but that's what it is!

Jan. 16 2011 01:31 AM

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